n this Sunday, April 1, 2012 photo, Free Syrian Army fighters are seen In a neighborhood of Damascus, Syria. Government and opposition forces clashed across Syria Monday as international envoy Kofi Annan prepared to brief the U.N. Security Council on the progress of his mission to ease the Syrian crisis. (AP Photo)
What to do in Syria? Western military intervention looks fraught with difficulties, but the situation on the ground is a humanitarian nightmare and is producing greater instability by the week. A recent trip to Turkey and Russia has persuaded me that there might be a path forward. The pressures on Bashar Assad's regime are real and mounting; it is running out of cash and now faces real military pressures from Turkey. These pressures could be heightened and combined with smart diplomacy, and they could push Assad out of power. But that would mean trying to work with the Russian government rather than attacking it.
The U.S. has been bashing Russia for shielding Assad, coddling an ally at the cost of human lives and arming the Syrian military. Some of this is true, some false, and much is exaggeration. But all is unhelpful if the goal is to oust Assad. Unless the U.S. intends to ask Iran for help, Russia is the only country with any influence with the Syrian regime.